Wizards’ James Singleton settling back in


Stop ball! It’s Kevin, right (Mel Evans/AP)

After spending the past two seasons playing in the Chinese Basketball Association, James Singleton is back, albeit on a 10-day contract. But the team is unfamiliar.

Cartier Martin and Andray Blatche are the only players who remain from Singleton’s 32-game stint at the end of the 2009-10 season. Martin is also on a 10-day contract and Blatche doesn’t travel with the team so that he can get his weight down and work on his conditioning.

Roger Mason Jr., Maurice Evans, Brian Cook, Nene and Rashard Lewis are the only other players on the roster who were even in the NBA before Singleton left. In the nearly two years since he last played for the Wizards, the team has another Singleton (Chris) on the roster and a new player wearing jersey No. 22 (Shelvin Mack).

“I noticed that, right?” James Singleton said. “This is a whole new team.”

Singleton hasn’t changed much from his time in the NBA, with the exception of the new tattoos he collected in his time overseas. He’s also wearing the No. 3, the same number he wore the past two years in China.

The Wizards acquired Singleton, Josh Howard and Quinton Ross from Dallas in exchange for Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson in February 2010 and he went on to average 6.9 points and 6.1 rebounds. He also was a vocal locker room presence and was constantly in Blatche’s ear to push him on the floor.

Singleton wanted to return to Washington, but found a more lucrative market in China, where he could make a little more money and get a lot more playing time. “I wanted to be here, I wanted to stay, but at the end of the day, it’s a business, as you know,” he said. “Playing over in China is different than any other place I’ve ever played.”

Singleton spent his first season adjusting to his new surroundings in China and last season he averaged 17.8 points & 11.9 and helped take the Guandong Southern Tigers to the CBA championship series. His team lost to the Beijing Tigers squad led my former NBA all-star Stephon Marbury, and he’s still smarting over the outcome. Singleton claims the series was delayed a few days to let Marbury and his teammates recover from a hard-fought semifinal.

“That was set up from the jump,” Singleton said. “They wanted to give him a chance to rest. I don’t care what nobody say.”

Singleton had every plan to finish out the regular season in the NBA when he returned to America, but didn’t know that he would join a team so soon. He arrived back at his home in Dallas last Monday and two days later, he got a phone call.

“My agent tells me, You’re leaving first thing in the morning. I’m like, ‘Okay, where am I going?’ He told me, DC. I came on out,” he said, adding that he had also drawn interest from Chicago and San Antonio. “I hadn’t even unpacked yet.”

When he made his debut against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, Singleton joked he was “still on China time.” In just 13 minutes, he was noticeably rusty as went scoreless and collected five fouls.“I like to get thrown in the pit sometimes but man, five fouls? In like two minutes,” Singleton said with a laugh. “It’s just my first day. It was strange.”

Singleton bounced back the next night in Newark. John Wall told him he would get the ball to Singleton and they quickly connected on a dunk early on. Singleton finished with 12 points and nine rebounds in the Wizards’ 110-98 loss. With Nene and Trevor Booker having missed the past five games and both out against Charlotte, Singleton will get more of an opportunity to stick around beyond his 10-day contract.

“It’s all fun,” Singleton said. “I’m trying to get back in the mix of things, get back to normal.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.

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